PAWS, The Spook School & some drumming adventures too

I first came across PAWS when they were part of the most insane gig I have ever been to.  I couldn’t really make out any of their songs at the time, but I had a quick listen online afterwards and instantly liked what I heard.  Their first album, Cokefloat, put me in mind of Oxford Collapse. I think at the time, I then got distracted remembering how awesome Oxford Collapse had been and went off on a mini-nostalgia trip listening to them and, to be honest, forgot about PAWS. I followed them on Twitter, however, and they seemed like cool, interesting guys. When they announced a new album and a tour including a gig in Stereo, I reckoned it was time to reconnect with them and give them a proper chance.

I listened back to their older stuff and kicked myself for not getting properly into them 2 years ago. They are GOOD. Then I heard the first track of the new album, No Grace and fell in love. They are REALLY GOOD.  Punchy, punky, energetic and danceable.  So I was excited to see them properly.

The day started with some drumming activity.  The place I go for lessons also have a shop, and they were hosting a demo event by Eddy Thrower, drummer with Lower Than Atlantis, among other bands & artists. I had seen him at the Glasgow Drum Show, and had been impressed, so after a fair amount of rushing about, my usual parking-in-Glasgow-City-Centre nightmare and getting rained on, I made it along to see most of his set.


Someone took a video:

Seriously, the guy is so laid back I half expected him to start sipping a cup of tea mid-beat. Check out his cover of Bieber – a lesson for me in fluidity of movement.

Afterwards, he took some questions, then stayed around a bit chatting to everyone.  I spoke to him for a few minutes about learning fundamentals, improvising and how drumming is the best thing ever. “I wish I could play more songs for you but I don’t have any more tracks…I just love playing drums!”


Afterwards, I had my lesson where we worked on some of those fundamentals. I’m sure now, after only a handful of lessons this time round, I’m being pushed beyond anything I learned or was playing back in the day.  The exercises we were working on this week makes previous weeks’ efforts look like baby stuff. I can’t wait to see what I’m doing in a few months time that makes my current paradiddle-diddles around the kit look simple. Love it.


After my lesson and a lot of running around town getting stuff for upcoming holiday and both girls’ birthdays, I headed over to Stereo for the gig. I got there early, as usual, to secure a place near the front.  I really didn’t fancy being in the middle of a (tall) crowd for this one.  I wasn’t that taken with the first support act. It was 1 bloke, who looked like he’d drafted in a reluctant mate to play bass. He spent every song setting up several looped parts as accompaniment. I don’t mind this now and again, it can be really cool if done well and shake things up a bit, but when it happened every single time and took several minutes it got very tedious. Either get some more mates, pre-record it or just play a stripped down version. I was bored.

The second support, on the other hand, were amazing.  The Spook School are a 4-piece of (mostly) young people who all took turns to lead and sing on songs.  They have a strong theme of gender identity running through their music.  At times the lyrics were a bit obvious and simplistic, but I’ll forgive them because they put their all into it, they played really tightly and brought a real spirit of optimism and positivity to a Glasgow that was still mostly reeling from recent political events.

The Spook School

A quick stage turnaround and PAWS came on. They promised to try to cram as many songs into the hour as possible, and they were true to their word. Minimal chat, energy levels high, mood elevated and song after song from all albums, old and new. Having listened to them some more, and armed with earplugs this time, I was able to actually appreciate the songs more than previously.  Although I was regretting even more not listening to them properly these past 2 years, as I wasn’t able to sing along to many of the songs.  Even though I recognised them I don’t have the lyrics pinned down yet. When the crowd participation sing-alongs occurred I just had to grin and dance and enjoy the band soaking up the adoration of the audience and revelling in the moment.


Towards the end, the crowd got predictably rowdy, and at one point I was thrown forward, knocking a monitor towards singer Philip. After the song he reminded everyone that if they wanted to jump around and go crazy, that was fine, but they should also look out for each other.  Later, a mini-stage invasion occurred and once again, after the invaders were ushered off, he asked everyone not to crowd-surf in case someone got hurt.  They might have been rocking their socks off, but they still wanted to make sure everyone, not just the crazy ones, was having a good time.

I wondered why these guys aren’t a huge band. They seemed so chuffed to be headlining Stereo, but Stereo is a pretty small venue. They are so good, they have interesting lyrics, complicated rhythms and manage to convey emotion and feeling into rock/punk/whatever music that has elements that are thoughtful and considered on record but can be ramped up and bring the roof down when played live. They give me that conflicted feeling – they deserve to be huge, but I’m also glad I get to see them up close in a small, sweaty club.

In their usual no-nonsense approach to life, they didn’t bother with the ritual of going off stage and back on for an encore, they played straight through, finished on a high and left.  We were all pumped, sweaty and in my case bruised. But it was awesome.

PAWS givin’ it laldy

I stopped by the merch stand, picked up a t-shirt and headed outside. I had that disconcerting feeling of coming out of a gig not much past 10pm in June, and it still being light outside. I felt energised and wanted to go on and do something else, but I had attended the gig on my own so was kinda stuck. I hung around for a bit in case I recognised anyone or there was a general sense of going on somewhere after, but the crowd dispersed, there was no sign of the band so I headed home. I’m mostly ok with going to gigs on my own, but sometimes it actually sucks. Anyway, half an hour later I was in my house having tea and toast. I’m so rock n roll it hurts.








Glasgow Drum Show 22nd May 2016

As discussed here I recently started drum lessons again. Well I have had 1 lesson so far. But my teacher mentioned that they were putting on a Drum Show the following week, and he suggested I go along to get some inspiration and immerse myself in drumming again for a while.  Initially, I didn’t think I would be able to go due to having my girls that weekend, but a quick swapsie arrangement meant that I had a few hours free on Sunday afternoon.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, never having been to a Drum Show before, but the website promised a mix of demonstrations and exhibitors.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t recognise any of the names of the performers, but a google search showed that I was at least familiar with some of their work.


I missed the first performance but arrived just as the second, Darrin Mooney, was underway. He played along to some songs, did a piece on his own and took questions from the audience.  Somehow I hadn’t thought to bring earplugs, so I stayed at the back to spare my hearing slightly. It was interesting to watch his performance, I’ve never seen just a drummer on the stage before. It was amazing to hear how you can create a “song” with just a drum kit. He gave some very common sense advice – practice or you will still be rubbish, if your teacher is a muppet you will still be rubbish. All rhythms are essentially the same thing, it’s the fancy flourishes that make them sound different, but drummers are used (and paid) for the basic rhythms, the fancy flourishes are nice but not usually necessary.

I found it strange, but I suppose not actually surprising that each of the performers was attached to a manufacturer as a rep or endorser.


There was a bit of a gap before the next demonstration, so I took a wander round then decided to take advantage of the sunny day and get some air and sunshine.  After a quick visit to Love Music to pick up a couple of records, I headed back in to have a look at the exhibitors.  All the major manufacturers were there, showing their products and selling too.  Punters were free to try things out, but there were queues at most stands and everyone trying things sounded far far better than me so I was too embarrassed to have a go. Especially when I saw a boy of about 9 totally smash it. I reminded myself I have only played once in the last 5 years, and a handful of times in the last 15. Maybe by next year I’ll be as good as a 9 year old.

Anyway, it was cool to see all the different kit and accessories.


The next performance was by Eddy Thrower, who gave a very entertaining demonstration and also did a Q&A. It was nice to see the kids asking questions about how the Pros started and who their influences were etc. This kind of event must be so inspiring if you are just starting out.

Next up was Steve White. He was extremely technically impressive, but I’m afraid I started to drift off during his performance, it just wasn’t so much my kind of music. However his Q&A was interesting and there was a nice bit where he gave a boy a pair of sticks after he asked a question.

I took another wander round afterwards and managed to have a go on an electronic drum kit. I was very impressed at how realistic it sounded through the headphones, but how little actual sound it actually produced.  I am very, very tempted…


There was only 1 thing that spoiled the afternoon a bit, when I was browsing the displays, I saw this advert:


Really? In 2016? Ooh Mr Drummer, your sticks are so grippy, let me drape myself all over you! No – shove your grips up your arse, let me show you how *I* can handle a pair of sticks. One for #EverydaySexism unfortunately.  There were women at the show, but mostly mothers bringing their teenage sons or women who appeared to be with their drummer boyfriends/husbands.  I only saw 1 girl trying out a kit in the exhibitors area. As I wandered around no-one manning (and I use that word accurately) asked me if I wanted to have a closer look or try anything out.

There were a couple more performers but sadly I had to go. However I think they were filmed, so I’ll try watch them later.

On the whole, I enjoyed it and I’m glad I was able to make it along. It certainly was inspiring and I learned a lot and remembered a lot that I had forgotten. I hope they put on another event next year when I think I would get more out of it.

The Drums!!! (pt2)

Well it’s been 5 years (!) since my last drumming adventure, but events of the last couple of weeks lead to me being in possession of a drumstick for the first time in a long time. It was only 1 (not complaining, the circumstances under which it was acquired were pretty amazing – thanks again, Keith!) but I immediately wanted to hold another and get tapping.  I tapped (with my hands) on the table and my knees the whole journey home on the train. The next day at work I tapped on my desk. I had that drumming itch again.  There was also something about going from festivals and gigs and speaking to musicians to changing bunk beds and trudging around Aldi. I missed playing and having something that was just *me*.  So I thought, f*#% it, why wait. I started looking for drum lessons.

I decided to go back to the same place I went for those 3 lessons 5 years ago.  They were good, encouraging, clearly passionate and there was no attitude about me being female or not a teenager.  I hate that I even need to consider this, but I couldn’t be sure of the same positive approach if I went elsewhere.  I wasn’t sure what had happened to my sticks when I moved house last year, but found them safely under my bed. I must have been unconsciously protective of them.


So I had my first lesson on Saturday.  I was really nervous at first, especially when he did that thing, “I’ll just leave you for a minute or 2 to get comfortable, have a play around”. Eek. I hate that. I know they can hear, I’m anxious as hell and haven’t hit a drum for 5 years. I bashed out a few basic rhythms as best I could and prayed he came back soon. We started off on some really basic “grooves” (not sure just how groovy I really was), involving a simple beat and different bass drum patterns.  It took me a while to get into the way of it again, given that another 5 years had passed since I played regularly and I was another 5 years older.  However, I managed to get them all in the end.


It was fun, when I remembered it was supposed to be fun and relaxed. I think I spent half the lesson with my eyes closed, trying to bring the memory of the movements back up from the deepest recesses of my brain. Lots of times I was trying too hard and it fell apart. I remembered that amazing feeling when you stop trying, relax into it, suspend your conscious movements and let your body do what it knows how to do.

I explained that I wouldn’t be able to come every week, but booked in again for 2 weeks time.  I’ll aim to go every fortnight initially but may have to go down to once a month if finances or time are stretched.  I have my homework to do, so will be air drumming and foot pressing between lessons. Tantalizingly, I was told that back around Christmas time, they had an offer on for a series of lessons and an electronic drum kit for about £250. Although being a current customer/student doesn’t exclude me from any future deals so I’ll be keeping an eye out.  In any case, I wasn’t in the right place to be doing this back at Christmas, so I tried not to be too annoyed.

Interestingly, a whole separate conversation with my cousin about examinations for deaf students, in particular deaf music students, led us to consider Evelyn Glennie.  Evelyn Glennie was a huge influence on me when I was learning percussion at school. My school lessons included a whole range of percussion including timpani (kettle) drums and tuned percussion such as xylophones. I played with various wind bands, brass bands and orchestras through the amazing Dundee City Council schools music programme. I once played triangle at the Edinburgh Festival. The real highfalutin festival, not the Festival Fringe. I mostly played timpani, because that was what the performance pieces called for. If there was ever a drum kit part, there would always be an older, more confident boy there to leap into the stool.

Anyway, I was such a fan of Evelyn Glennie, that my parents took me to see her in concert, although unfortunately I have absolutely no memory of that. My cousin made me aware of a TED talk that Glennie had done a few years ago. Her talk is amazing and you should definitely watch all of it.  Part of what she talks about is the difference between reading music and playing what you see, and feeling and interpreting music. This is why I paniced when left alone with a drum kit. Back when I learned at school, I was never given any chance to play around, experiment, improvise.  Partly due to not having my own kit or access to one, but also the way our lessons were structured were very programmatic and designed to teach technical skills and pass grade exams.  I’m sure this is not the fault of my teacher, he played jazz so I’m sure would have been all about the improvisation, but he was limited by the curriculum. So we spent a lot of time on flams and paradiddles and snare drum only pieces. I found some of my old books.


This is the kind of thing we worked on:


So my snare drum sticking got pretty good, I would have been ideally placed to join a marching band, but that’s not really what I wanted to do.

There was some drum kit work, such as this:


So I learned all that, but never learned to be creative with my playing. I was never given a piece of music and asked to create a drum part to accompany it. So on the few occasions I had the opportunity to play with other musicians, I was a bit lost, had no confidence without a drum score in front of me and was soon de-throned by an older boy whose parents had the space and indulgent nature to buy him a kit.

I don’t know if I’ll ever have my own kit. I don’t know if I’ll ever play with other people. I don’t know if I’ll ever get any good. I do want to pick it up again, so that when I say I’m a drummer I’m not referring to 20 years ago, or 3 measly lessons 5 years ago. I want to build my confidence and my improvisation skills. I want to prove myself and defy expectations.